The University of Newcastle, Australia

Donate now

Get behind the 2019 Challenge trekkers

As alumni, community, students and staff, it’s time to rise to the challenge again. Your support in 2019 will help transform lives for Indigenous Australians through university education, and health research projects.

Your support through one of the inspiring trekkers below will help our Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge team to raise over $125,000 needed to support generational change for Indigenous Australians. 100% of your donation will support Indigenous students and Indigenous health research.

It’s rewarding to see how the funds we raised have been put to work – to hear that whole families attend the Podiatry clinic and that it is making a real difference to Indigenous peoples’ overall health – that’s what the Challenge is really about.

Liz Milward, Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, Larapinta Trail Challenge Champion 2017.

Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge Donation

Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge Donation

Support all our amazing trekkers who are raising money for Indigenous scholarships and health research. By donating here, the amount you give will be dispersed evenly against all trekkers’ targets.

Meet the Challenge team for 2019

Judy Adnum

Judy Adnum

Judy has tutored in UON’s School of Education for five years. She tutors students through the Wollotuka Tutoring Program and is undertaking a PhD in Education. She is an alumna of UON, having studied a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma in Education and receiving a Sporting Blue.

Judy has undertaken both of the University’s previous fundraising challenge treks: she walked 50km along the Great Wall of China in 2015 to raise more than $80,000 for UON scholarships; trekked 65km of the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory in 2017 to raise more than $150,000 to support indigenous Australian education and health research; and she’s delighted to be back on board for this next challenge!

Judy believes everyone is entitled to a university education if they want one. She says "the two previous challenge treks were amazing experiences that challenged me and were incredibly rewarding. I met many new friends on the treks and count them as some of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The treks also gave me time to reflect upon how many students and their families perceive higher education. This has enhanced my teaching around historical perspectives, and has allowed me to pass on to students a richer resource base for understanding these perspectives.”

Dianne Allen

Dianne Allen

Dianne Allen has been a member of the University of Newcastle’s Council for over a decade and serves on a number of University committees. Known for her commitment to supporting community members achieve their full potential through the provision of world-class, life-changing learning opportunities, Dianne is focused on contributing to the potential of Australia’s future workforce and helping UON foster strong and enduring relationships within the communities it serves.

Dianne is passionate about Indigenous equity in education, and looks forward to taking on the trek for this cause.

Richard Anicich

Richard Anicich

Richard is Chair of Hunter Primary Care Ltd and a non-executive director of Rural and Remote Medical Services Ltd, both of which are organisations who experience firsthand the needs of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Richard is a consultant with Sparke Helmore Lawyers and a Conjoint Professor in the University of Newcastle Law School. He is particularly active in the business community for the region, being a past president of the Hunter Business Chamber, chair of the Committee for the Hunter and a member of the Advisory Boards for both the School of Law and the Faculty of Business and Law at the University.

Having successfully climbed to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro and completed the University’s 2017 Larapinta Trail challenge, which raised over $150,000 for Indigenous education and health research, Richard is looking forward to his next challenge; tackling 100kms of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges for Indigenous equity.

Ben Bowen

Ben Bowen

Ben started his career in Newcastle after graduating from the University of Newcastle with a degree in chemical engineering and has spent over 20 years working on projects in the water industry around Australia and internationally. After a successful career in industry, Ben and two colleagues started Sphere Infrastructure Partners, an advisory business focused on environmental infrastructure projects with a particular focus on projects in the water, waste and waste to energy sectors. Sphere's aspiration is to live in a sustainable world.

Ben has been involved with a number of community focused programs and in particular through involvement with WaterAid Australia has seen the tangible benefits that focused programs can deliver to communities in need. Ben is excited to be joining the Ikara Flinders Range Challenge to explore South Australia’s arid outback and supporting equity and higher education for all.

Connor Brown

Connor Brown

Connor is coordinating and participating in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge, as he did for the Larapinta Trail Challenge in 2017.

When asked why he was taking on the 100km Ikara Challenge, Connor said, “I believe that providing dedicated individuals with access to education, support and equal opportunity is the best way to create the generational and irrevocable change needed to achieve equity for all Indigenous Australians. For every Indigenous student we can help to be a positive role model for Indigenous people and Indigenous leader for Australia, we will have had a far reaching and long lasting impact.”

Connor has been working in philanthropy for nine years, coming to the University with experience of business development and marketing with for-profits and not-for-profits.

Kurt Dahl

Kurt Dahl

Kurt is a chemical engineer who graduated from the University of Newcastle in 1997. Over the past 20 years he has worked in mining and water treatment across Asia Pacific. In 2008, Kurt started an engineering consultancy, Permeate Partners, focused on local water solutions and membrane-based treatment systems. Permeate’s head office is located in Newcastle and it has an ongoing commercial relationship with the University for membrane analysis.

Through his involvement and support of WaterAid, Kurt has witnessed first-hand the wide-ranging community benefits from health programs and education. Participating in the Larapinta Trail Challenge in 2017, he’s looking forward to putting on his boots again for a cause he’s passionate about.

Jeff Dobinson

Jeff Dobinson

Jeff is an Eye Surgeon who has been working in private practice in Newcastle and with the Hunter New England Local Heath District as a VMO for the past 23 years. Over that time he has given regular lectures to the third year medical students at Newcastle University, as well as providing frequent teaching sessions for the same students in his private rooms.

He runs a monthly clinic at the John Hunter Hospital, with links to the Awabakal Medical Centre at Hamilton. He has seen first-hand the inequality in heath standards between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, and is very happy to think that his efforts on the trek might help in some small way to address this problem.

He is a keen bush-walker. Highlights include The Overland Track in Tassie, The Milford Track in New Zealand, Mount Kilimanjaro, and recently the Great North Walk between Sydney and Newcastle. He is eager to experience the Heysen Trail, another iconic walk, and hopes that his knees will survive the journey!

Joe Herbertson

Joe Herbertson

Joe is co-founder and director of the Hunter-based technology company The Crucible Group. He is widely recognised for his contributions to sustainability driven innovation, especially in response to climate change. Joe was formerly head of the BHP Central Research Laboratories at Shortland. As a Conjoint Professor, he has supervised four PhD students at the University of Newcastle and is currently developing two more to support regenerative agriculture opportunities.

Joe participated in the 2017 Larapinta Trail Challenge, his first experience in the heart of Australia. This gave him a deep respect for the land and the knowledge of indigenous people who cared for it over millennia. He is personally motivated to find practical ways to help break down the inequity that persists today and to address unsustainable farming practices. Joe looks forward to immersing himself in the upcoming experience of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge to raise funds and to stimulate some new ideas.

Merv Lindsay

Merv Lindsay

Merv, a civil / structural engineer, co-founded the engineering company Lindsay Dynan, and grew the business from its beginnings in Newcastle. It is now a leading national organisation with offices in Sydney, Perth, Newcastle and the Central Coast.

Merv has had first-hand experience of the real difference Indigenous education can make. He has been actively involved for over ten years in promoting and supporting front-line programs that provide opportunity, support, self-belief and successful outcomes in Indigenous education. Merv is taking on the Challenge because he knows the funds raised will make a lasting difference in Indigenous education and health research.

Robert Lindsay

Robert Lindsay

Robert is a consultant at Mullane & Lindsay Solicitors. He is one of the founding partners of the law practice which was established in 1980. This is the first time he has participated in a challenge of this nature.

Robert believes in equality for all and also understands the value of a quality education, so he’s pleased that the money he raises will assist in promoting and helping Indigenous students achieve their goals. Also, he's desperately trying to get fit!

Nat McGregor

Nat McGregor

Nat is Chief Operating Officer for the University of Newcastle. He has a strong association with the University, having gained a Bachelor of Commerce here in 1996 and an MBA through Deakin University in 2006. Nat is a father of four children ranging from 12 to 19 years old. Nat enjoys the surf and keeping as fit as possible, he swims most mornings and trains at his local Little Nippers Club.

Nat completed the University’s Larapinta Trail Challenge in 2017 to raise funds for Indigenous education and health research and looks forward to continuing to make a difference for these important causes through the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge.

Lizzie McLaughlin

Lizzie McLaughlin

Lizzie is an alumna of the University of Newcastle, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) in 2002. She worked as a criminal solicitor for 10 years in regional NSW and the ACT before returning to Newcastle. She was called to the bar in 2014 and appeared in a range of matters throughout NSW and interstate, including various Royal Commissions. In 2019, Lizzie was appointed as a Public Defender, based here in Newcastle. She is a member of the advisory board for the UON Law School.

Lizzie is not an avid bush walker, has a poor sense of direction and is not particularly fit. Thankfully she is highly competitive and genuinely committed to doing what she can to support educational opportunities at UON for the next generation of indigenous leaders and lawyers.

Liz Milward

Liz Milward

Liz is a professor in the University of Newcastle’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy. Her work focuses on brain diseases and factors affecting how different people respond to medical treatments.

After taking part in the University’s Larapinta Trail Challenge in 2017, she is looking forward to again supporting Indigenous education and health research by participating in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge.

Malcom Monson

Malcom Monson

“If you want it enough, you can achieve just about anything” and “I believe in showing gratitude” are two small statements that say a great deal about who Malcolm Monson is, and what he stands for.

Mal worked his way through the ranks at Essential Energy from linesman to his current role as an Electrical Safety Specialist. His career has also seen him branch into community work and into professional development opportunities such as his current position of Leader for Essential Energy’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Diversity Stream.

Mal says the range of programs offered through Essential Energy actively build the capability of young Indigenous people, returning real benefits to the individuals themselves and to their communities. While he is a great believer that you can “rise above any challenges if you want it” – Mal acknowledges that for many Indigenous young people, they simply don’t know how to get started. Malcolm hopes that the Ikara-Flinders Ranges trek will be an opportunity to further connect with his own Aboriginal heritage and to continue to raise awareness of Essential Energy’s commitment to Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander programs.

Sarah Nash

Sarah Nash

Since joining the University of Newcastle's staff seven years ago, Sarah has seen just how much UON does for Indigenous education. She says "We are without question leaders in the sector and are, by all measures, quite humble about it – it is simply what we do and have always done. It makes me hugely proud of our University and taking on this trek felt like a way to show my admiration for my colleagues and the work they do".

Sarah knows the trek will present physical and mental challenges, but she's compelled to take on these challenges out of respect for those who face challenges that are beyond their control. She hopes that her contribution to this effort will help address inequity, such that we can level the playing field for all Australians.

Hennie du Plooy

Hennie du Plooy

Chief Executive Officer of Port Waratah Coal Services and President of the Hunter Business Chamber, Hennie is passionate about the future of his home town and the Hunter community and wants to continue fostering a positive and mutually beneficial relationship between the business sector and the community. He supports a regional future of sustainable economic growth that improves all aspects of the well being of the Hunter.

A strong advocate for equity and diversity, Hennie is particularly looking forward to supporting Indigenous students who are driven to be our future industry and community leaders with the support of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges Challenge.

Diane Rebourcet

Diane Rebourcet

Diane is a researcher in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle. Since joining the University about a year ago, she has become aware of the inequality for Indigenous Australians. Coming from a minority herself, she believe that knowledge and education are the only way to elevate yourself and open gates to the future.

She decided to join this challenge to support research for Indigenous community health issues and students through scholarships to help them become the next generation of Indigenous leaders and role models. It will also give her the opportunity to discover the culture of the Adnyamathanha people, besides grasping aspects of Australian wilderness. With no experience in bush walking, this trek will be challenging and positively life-changing

Michael Robertson

Michael Robertson

Michael is a proud alumnus of the University of Newcastle, having completed a Bachelor of Education (Music) (Hons I). As a father of four young children, he enjoys spending time with his family and introducing them to new experiences amidst a hectic schedule of after-school and weekend sports and activities. In his leadership role as the Associate Director, Faculty Services in the University’s Faculty of Education and Arts, Michael strives to positively ‘pay back’ to the University and influence the lives and well-being of the many students, colleagues and communities that he encounters every day.

As a passionate advocate for the transformational power of education, this challenge is a wonderful opportunity for Michael to demonstrate his commitment to Indigenous education and research. Michael is very much looking forward to the opportunity to (literally) ‘walk the talk’ and support the educational aspirations of Indigenous students and contribute to the well-being of Australia’s Indigenous communities.

Rob Sale

Rob Sale

Robert has 25 years of accomplishment in the technology sector with extensive  experience in the private, academic and public sectors. Successfully establishing, growing and exiting hi-tech and med-tech companies, he is responsible for the creation of significant innovation programs on behalf of the commonwealth.

Robert has an academic appointment as an Innovation Professor - Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, lead the formation of the overall Defence CRC Program and was the founding CEO of the first Defence CRC in Trusted Autonomous Systems. He is currently Deputy Chair and Strategy Director for the Centre. He has a strong background in commercialisation, governance and leadership with operations, data analytics, finance, clinical understanding and management, fund raising in both private and public sectors and international IPO success.

Robert is principal consultant for a boutique consultancy focused on advisory, research translation, Defence consulting and commercialisation.

Michael Seamer

Michael Seamer

Michael is a senior lecturer who has been with the University of Newcastle since 1995. Prior to that Michael spent 13 years as a manager in large Chartered Accounting firms in both Perth and Newcastle. Michael is an award winning lecturer who has contributed to academic journals and national media. Michael is taking on the trek to help close the gap in Indigenous health and education.

Bernadette Smyth

Bernadette Smyth

Bernadette is a keen philanthropist, a dog lover and an accounting disruptor. She's the Manager of Profit For Purpose at BeLLCORP Accountants and genuinely loves what she does! Having worked in accounting and finance for over 15 years, Bernadette has experienced a range of industries from health insurance and mining services to education and charities. She is the Chair of CPA Australia's Newcastle & Hunter Branch and a representative on their Profit For Purpose Global Network Group. Through her role with CPA Australia, she has also got involved with Indigenous Accountants Australia and that's what got Bernadette so interested in the Ikara Challenge - she is passionate about seeing better education and career outcomes amongst young Indigenous Australians.

Michael Ulph

Michael Ulph

Michael is Technical Director (Communications & Stakeholder Engagement) at GHD. He’s taking part in the Challenge for a numbers of reasons - the most important is that he believes that to close the gap there is nothing better than supporting education for Indigenous students.

Michael says "I’ve seen Indigenous disadvantage first hand, and continue to be a student of Indigenous culture through formal and informal means such as the opportunities that are planned during this walk. I’ve also never seen this land before and I look forward to witnessing this arid region first-hand, and sharing it with others during the trek and then afterwards with colleagues, friends and family.”

Lastly, Michael recognises this is a fitness challenge for him: "The distances each day are not arduous, but we need to be well prepared and ready for climbing and rough ground in any weather. I expect it will be a challenging and life-changing adventure."

Alex Wegner

Alex Wegner

Alex has worked as a graphic and multimedia designer and illustrator throughout Australia, Europe and South America for corporate and government clients including Procter & Gamble, London Fashion Week and City of Melbourne. Moving to Newcastle a few years ago, Alex started her own business - Sketch It Live - where she captures the gist of a presentation, strategic meeting, classroom lesson or social event, with sketches. She believes that learning how to use visual language at school can help all students in problem solving, communication and information retention. Alex is excited to be contributing to a cause she feels passionate about and for the opportunity to walk part of the beautiful Heysen Trail while learning more about the Adnyamathanha people - especially their songs and stories about their spiritual connection to the land.

Alex Zelinsky

Alex Zelinsky

Alex joined The University of Newcastle in 2018 as Vice-Chancellor and President after six years as Chief Defence Scientist of Australia. In the search for a new Vice-Chancellor, Alex’s values set him apart, particularly in the fields of equity and excellence. All of his career he has been involved in the translation of research for economic and social benefit.

Alex’s scientific career includes working as a computer scientist, systems engineer and roboticist and spans innovation, science and technology, research, commercial start-ups and education. Prior to joining Defence, Alex was Group Executive for Information Sciences at CSIRO. Before that, he was CEO and co-founder of Seeing Machines, a technology company focused on computer vision. The company was a start-up from the Australian National University, where he was a Professor of Systems Engineering.

Always up for a challenge and as a strong proponent for Indigenous education and health research, Alex is excited to take on the Ikara-Flinders Ranges, especially for such a good cause.

Proudly supported by


TSA Management logo
Port Waratah Coal Services Logo

Trusted Autonomous Systems logo

Essential Energy logo